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Featured Blogs

The Serpents of Bienville Art Gallery is now open!

Categories: Featured Blogs, General, News | Posted by: Sean Herman


My wife and I have been working on the project that is the Serpents of Bienville for about seven months now.  We have watched it grow and evolve into things much bigger than we could have expected.  We have now opened an art gallery/museum in downtown Daphne, Alabama.  To learn more about it, check out this post I did here explaining what we are doing with the space and how you can get involved.


Thanks for keeping up with me, and I hope you enjoy the site!

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For the Love of Tattooing: “Signatures of the Soul”

Categories: Featured Blogs, General, Videos | Posted by: Sean Herman
Good Time Charlies Tattoo Land from "Signatures of the Soul"

Good Time Charlies Tattoo Land from “Signatures of the Soul”

Anyone that knows me will tell you, I love tattooing.  I love everything about it.  I love the act of tattooing, whatever the piece may be, and I love getting tattooed.  It’s a passionate love affair that started for me almost 20 years ago.  I am so thankful and grateful to get to be involved in such an amazing and beautiful craft.  It’s something I still, to this day, can’t believe I am lucky enough to get to be a part of. (You can read the full piece of how I was introduced to tattooing at TAM blog)  Every day, tattooing amazes me in one way or another.  The way I like to describe it is “Tattooing” is a larger thing, a beautiful entity that we are all just tapping into when we do a tattoo.  When you can get the motions just right, it’s like riding a wave, and it just carries you through.  Many tattooers will tell you, the machine will do the work, it will move for you. 

That love affair also stretches into the history of the craft of Tattooing.  I will sit and talk for hours with anyone that will listen about books, documentaries, or just stories of the people in the past that have been involved in the craft.  After a particularly long conversation the other day, I decided I wanted to share some of those documentaries and stories with you guys.  So I am continuing with a past project I was doing entitled “For the Love of Tattooing” (which can be found at TAM blog).  In the first part of the project I interviewed several tattooists, asking them about what got them invested in tattooing.  Now, I will be sharing some of my favorite documentaries, interviews, and stories, and what they mean to me, and how they show a love for this amazing craft.  I am so thankful that I get to be involved in such a historically rich and beautiful craft, and hopefully I can share that feeling with you guys.  I hope you enjoy!  The first post will be on the film “Signatures of the Soul (Tattooing Today)”

Signatures of the Soul (Tattooing Today) (1984)

Film Overview: “Tattooing — “The world’s oldest skin game” — is the subject of this documentary made by Geoff Steven who scored a major coup when he obtained the services of Peter Fonda as his presenter. Shot in NZ, Samoa, Japan and the United States, it traces the history of tattooing from Ancient Egypt through its tribal importance in the Pacific, to a counter culture renaissance that began in the 1960s. Leading practitioners (including superstar Ed Hardy) are interviewed and observed at work, while their clients wince their way towards becoming living canvasses.”

Host Peter Fonda describing his experience with tattooing from "Signatures of the Soul"

Host Peter Fonda describing his experience with tattooing from “Signatures of the Soul”

“Signatures of The Soul” is an essential starting point for tattooing documentaries. Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider fame) hosts this documentary, going over much of the early history of tattooing.  Fonda even goes into explanations of why he is tattooed, and specific tattoos he wears.


Paulo Sulu’ape tattooing from “Signatures of the Soul”

Starting with a history of Samoan tattooing, the film goes into the revival of tattooing in modern Samoa, specifically with tattooist Paulo Sulu’ape.  Sulu’ape was a huge influence on me and my interest in tattooing. I saw a clip from Signatures of the Soul when I was young, and it forever influenced and affected my thoughts.  I identified with Sulu’ape, that personal connection in tattooing. The way he spoke about a connection to the person receiving the tattoo and the power that it gave, it was amazing… inspiring. I knew tattooing would forever be an obsession to me, something I could never get out of my head, but I never thought I would be one of the few lucky ones that could give a tattoo.  Years after I had tattooing brought to my attention by Paulo, I found myself working under the watchful eye of an amazing woman in the Netherlands. I went out there to tattoo at her shop, and she became something of a tattoo mom for me. She had been in the craft a long time, had seen the world and had fought for tattooing. She was tough, and I respected her for it.

One night we were having a meal out and she asked me the question of, “How did you get into tattooing?” I began by telling her about Paulo Sulu`ape, and how his words changed my life. She looked at me, smiled and I noticed tears started coming down her eyes. “Paulo” she said, “was the love of my life.” I sat in awe and listened to a story of them falling in love, getting ready to spend a life together and his untimely death that forever changed her life. I listened and was amazed. I told her how his words changed everything I thought, to which she smiled at me, and softly said, “It’s tattooers like you that Paulo lives on through, forever.” We sat, in silence, with tears in our eyes, forever connected. To me, that is the heart of tattooing.  That was the greatest compliment I will ever receive. 


Tattooist Bob Roberts from "Signature of the Soul"

Tattooist Bob Roberts from “Signature of the Soul”

From Paulo,  the film continues on through tattooing rich history, its discovery by sailors and how it spread throughout the world.  From Doc Webb, to Bob Roberts and Leo Zulueta, to Ed Hardy, this film documents the beginnings of what became modern tattooing.  The origins of everything tattooing is today can be found in “Signatures of the Soul”.  Doc Webb telling stories about sailors and traditional American tattooing, and Bob Roberts going into explantations of why solid black work has beautiful longevity and its place in the punk rock culture. 


Tattooist Jack Rudy from "Signatures of the Soul"

Tattooist Jack Rudy from “Signatures of the Soul”

This transitions to interviews with Jack Rudy and his explanations for why black and grey tattooing has such an impact on portrait tattooing and why he feels it looks complimenting as a tattoo.  It’s a great piece of modern tattoo history. Sailor, punk, circus and gang culture are all covered in this piece. 

Lyle Tuttle gives great explanations for tattooing in freak shows, and how it influenced tattooing overall.  On the other side is Ed Hardy giving a detailed interview, explaining his ideas of private studio tattooing, and how Japanese tattooing contains valuable essentials that are key to the growth of modern tattooing.  A short but detailed history of tattooing in Japan is included, a valuable resource for anyone interested in tattoo culture.  Hardy and Zulueta’s work creating Tattoo Times (in my opinion, one of the single most valuable tattoo publications) is also covered in the film.  Even the creation of temporary tattoos gets some screen time in this film.

Tattooist Lyle Tuttle describing his history in tattooing from "Signatures of the Soul"

Tattooist Lyle Tuttle describing his history in tattooing from “Signatures of the Soul”

“Signatures of the Soul” is a beautiful document in time that every tattoo enthusiast should see, so naturally it had to be the first piece I would recommend seeing.

“There’s a certain percentage of the populace everywhere always that will want to be tattooed and I’m sure none of us will every fully understand why. And that’s part of the attraction.”

Tattooist Ed Hardy

“Signatures of the Soul” is  separated into 4 clips.

CAUTION:  There are a few clips in this first one that could be offensive, if you are the type to get offended, or if kids are watching it. So if your kids watch this, and you don’t want them to see nudity, you might not want to watch it in front of them.  Also, tattooing shown on this film is from a time when sterilization practices were not what they are today (i.e. latex gloves, machine bags, etc).  Today we know the importance of cross contamination, and what we need to do to provide the safest environment for our clients.  This film documents a different time, where the tattooist felt they were providing the same level of protection, prior to the advances that were made to get us to where we are today.  Watch the film with an open mind to where tattooing was and is today.

If the movies below won’t load for you, you can click the link here and view it directly from the site.

New Zealand On Screen is who we have to think for uploading this valuable piece of tattoo history.  Next time I will be featuring the first film that the director of “Signatures of the Soul” (Geoff Steven) did on tattooing entitled “Skin Pics”.  Stay tuned!

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The Harbinger of Death

Categories: Featured Blogs, General | Posted by: Sean Herman

This is the second installment in a month long series I am doing for the Halloween season.  Each piece is the story behind one of the illustrations I drew for The Serpents of Bienville Collection.  I hope you enjoy!  If you like the story, and the illustration, you can purchase it over at .  Thanks!

“For the Choctaw, the black panther steals souls, particularly the souls of those unprepared to die…Whether a harbinger of death…or as a symbol of the dark side of feminine nature, the black panther is both a symbol of death and rebirth…the nalushashito or soul-eater.”1


Illustration entitled "The Harbinger of Death" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman
Illustration entitled “The Harbinger of Death” 11″x17″ Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

The dense Alabama wilderness has a way of becoming a black cloak at night fall.  The veil falls over your eyes, guiding you into a void of towering pines like smoke stacks, a thick fog floating at your feet.  These are the nights that any slight sound becomes a ghost, whispering in your ear.  The earth at your feet opens wide, swallowing you into your grave, as a shrill scream echoes in the distance, ringing in your head as you plunge to your inevitable end.  All that can be heard is the deafening shriek, echoing through your mind as the ground closes up around you.  The pine needles are teeth in a closing mouth.  The last bits of dirt are thrown over the hole by large black paws, her mouth still billowing the cry that has sealed your fate: the cry of the Wampus Cat—the “Harbinger of Death”.

Southern Alabama is not typically where one would find black panthers, which is why special significance and lore have been placed on this beast that roams the woods.  For the Choctaw, the black panther was the stealer of souls that were not prepared to die.  This cat signifies the dark side of feminine nature, a harbinger of death, representing both death and rebirth, or simply the nalushashito, the soul-eater.1  

harbingerbloguse4The Wampus Cat lore is derived from a commonly heard story about a beautiful Indian woman, hiding in the words, watching her husband and the men of her tribe practicing magic.  The belief was that it was forbidden for women to be present during these rituals.  So she watched in secret, clutching the hide of a mountain cat around her body for disguise and protection, watching their sacred ceremony take place.  Unbeknownst to the woman, she had been discovered.  As she watched, the medicine man turned and stared deep into the trees she thought were her cover, as if to be looking right into her eyes, seeing her through all darkness.  In this long silence, she became frozen.  Words slowly began to fall out of the medicine man’s mouth and the woman could feel the hide she was hiding in, to keep warm and protected from the night, begin to squeeze around her, as if it was breathing life, fusing with the woman’s flesh.  The skin of the cat became her flesh, overtaking her body, turning her into a hideous monster.  The woman fell to her knees, seemingly breathing her last breath, the sound abruptly rising into a howl, a deafening scream.  Her head lurched back, arms outstretched as she morned her now damned existence.  The myth follows, stating that if you are the one to hear that shrill cry, death is right around the corner, for she is now the “Harbinger of Death”.

Story telling and myths have a way of showing the deeper truth and belief that lie within a culture.  The ugly, the unjust, the damned will be created and turned into the recipients of the pack mentality hatred that is boiling over.  One recipient of this, time and time again, is feminine nature.  Stories from that of Eve and the Apple, Pandora’s Box, and the Salem Witch Trials seem to contain the underlying distrust of the feminine, of the woman herself.  Since the times of early story telling, duality myths always abound.  One would read these and believe that we have grown as a civilization, and we no longer hold onto these ideals, but is that really true?  Could this still be taking place today?

Leo Igwe, of The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, documented these events that sound like they were taken out of a page of history from hundreds of years past, but were unfortunately products of the 21st century. 

markedharbingbloguse3Igwe states:

“In patriarchal societies, women often are found at the lower ranks of the society. Hence they have the label of witchcraft applied to them. This explains why women are often the victims of accusation. But it is not all women who are accused. It is mainly elderly women- widows, childless women who are often targeted. Here are a few cases from Northern Ghana to illustrate my point. 

“Melatu was accused by the daughter of being responsible for her illness. She was taken to a local shrine where she was confirmed a witch. The daughter later died. She was attacked, beaten and banished from her community. Melatu is currently living in a witch camp in Ghana. 

“In 2012, I met another woman at the Kukuo witch camp. She was banished from her community for engaging in witchcraft. She could not walk. She crawled to attend to her daily chores but when I returned in February 2014, they said she had died. What happened? She was bitten by an insect one evening, she cried out for help but before they could attend to her, she passed away. 

“But another alleged witch, Bibat, could not make it to the camp. In 2010, the step son confirmed from a local diviner that she was bewitching him. And one evening, the step son confronted her in an open field and stabbed her to death. 

“Not all who are banished because of witchcraft flee to the camps. An 80 year old woman, Sinat was accused of being responsible for the death of a neighbour’s wife. She was seen in the dream by another girl in her compound. Sinat was accused of witchcraft and was banished from her community. One of her relatives accommodated her in Tamale where I met with her. 

“Her relations took her case to court with the help of the state human rights agency. While the case was in court, the chief of her village asked her to return to the community.  

“But another woman, Mega, was not as lucky. I met her in February 2014 at the witch camp in Gnani. She was banished after being accused of sorcery. I met the chief and other elders of her village and persuaded them to allow her to return to the community without success. But with the grant from Foundation Beyond Belief, she was able to leave the camp and is now trying to start a small business. 

“Vulnerable members of the population are not necessarily female. They can be male, young or old, poor or ‘rich’ people. It is not all elderly women or men, not all boys or girls that a branded witches. Witches are those with weak social political base; those unable to successfully contest accusations made against them. The tragedy is that witchcraft remains a powerful narrative in diagnosing social problems and challenges that people face…”2

Illustration by Sean Herman, "Harbinger of Death"  11"x17" on Illustration board
Illustration by Sean Herman, “Harbinger of Death” 11″x17″ on Illustration board

One can’t help but imagine a beautiful Choctaw woman, from the original “Wampus Cat” myth, cast out from her community, and forced to wander the night alone, labeled an outcast, unclean and never to return to her former home.  These modern stories, these current events, make this myth now so vivid, so uncomfortably real.  We want to imagine that this is only a legend, something to tell around a late night campfire to cause you to look twice in the vast darkness of wilderness that surrounds us, hoping the monster is not a few steps behind you.  Perhaps we are the monster, as a culture, as a civilization.  The beast is no longer the woman, but our modern civilization, the human conditions and beliefs that created this creature, this story.  Perhaps the cry we should really be hearing is that of change, and of coming back from a damned existence of judgement.

A light of hope can be found in a piece written by David Titterington,

“The above/below duality that all upright bodies experience correlates with male/female archetypes not only due to historically situated cultural constructions, or to intentional, patriarchal agendas, but also to material, bodily conditions. Rather than reifying modern sex-roles and gender differences, this realization uncovers what we can call ‘gender-landscape reciprocity’ and helps us to understand how truly gendered phenomena are before they even reach consciousness. By keeping an eye on how these subtle structures of association color our experience, we can transcend them, reducing misogyny and homophobia within ourselves. ‘Realization and liberation are simultaneous.’”3

Realization becomes liberation.  Then, “It is possible that people never understand each other, yet they always agree. each interprets the other’s words in his own way, and they live in perfect harmony, the perfect solidarity of perfect mutual misunderstanding.” 4

Maybe, if we take one more look, we can find something that was there all along, that the black panther is both a symbol of death and rebirth.  Could a true rebirth in modern civilization lie in an acceptance and understanding that we are one?  Can we ever truly be complete, or will we remain roaming into the void of wilderness, bringing death with our words, crying out for something we never will have?



Owens, Louis. Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place. American Indian Lit. and Critical Studies Series 26. Norman, OK: U of Oklahoma P, 1998. —. “Re: Article.” E-mail sent to author. 13 Nov. 2000. —. The Sharpest Sight. American Indian Lit. and Critical Studies Series 1. Norman, OK: U of Oklahoma P, 1992.



4. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. 1984.

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Bienville’s Sacred Oath

Categories: Featured Blogs, General | Posted by: Sean Herman

This is the first blog that I am doing in a special Halloween series for,  our new project site.  I will be doing one post a week, with the last blog being on Friday November 13th.  Each blog will be based around one of the illustrations I drew for The Serpents of Bienville Collection, telling the story behind the illustration, and including some ideas to ponder on.  I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them.

“Alabama has many ghosts.  Stop in almost any town in the state and if you inquire around, the chances are that you will find a ghost story.  Old residents will point out a dilapidated structure known locally as a haunted house or will give you directions to a run-down decaying mansion or to the overgrown site where once stood ‘the grandest plantation house in the county’-a real haunted house.”

Kathryn Tucker Windham, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey

Illustration entitled "The Serpents of Bienville" 11"x17" Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Illustration entitled “The Serpents of Bienville” 11″x17″ Ink on Illustration board by Sean Herman

Sweat glistened from the explorers’ brows.  The heavy salts were constantly dripping into their eyes, and with the intense glare coming off the glassy waters from which their canoes were floating, their vision was completely obscured.  They would have no time to prepare for the force that was approaching.  As they would row, wiping their salt crusted brows to gain back perception, the travelers detected a dark and distinct movement in the distance.   A mass of ghosts were coming directly toward them.  It seemed the haints were slowly gliding their way, but almost as if they were going to go through, and past them. Suddenly, all movement ceases.  The men are haunted by complete stillness, complete silence.  Both parties are frozen—the explorers watching in fear, the ghosts staring emotionless.  From the clear reflection of the bay, one canoe glides to the front of the idle fleet.  A man in uniform rode forward, his canoe parting the waters.  As he glided across, his uniform fell off his skin and shattered the glass of the bay.  What arose from his flesh was a body of serpents, intertwined and becoming one.  The explorer was covered, from head to toe, in the marks of serpents, tattoos wrapping around his body, down his arms, guiding this canoe, guiding him toward the native ghosts that lie in the distance.  The explorer made the choice to become one with the ghosts, become lost in the mist, to disappear forever.  Bienville and his serpents sealed their fate with the sacred oath forged in flesh, ink and blood.  From the initial prick of his skin, he swore to share their future, to have their remains forever lost and deprived honor and recognition, to fall and disappear into obscurity in flames and ashes.  These were the Serpents of Bienville.




Illustration of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville

The le Moyne brothers were of French Canadian descent with the elder, Iberville, already earning a name as a sea-fighter in the French wars with England.  His younger brother Bienville, a boy of twelve years, had been officer of a battery on board the ship which Iberville commanded.  Once the wars ended, the brothers were sent into the gulf of the Americas to continue further conquest for France.  Bienville was just sixteen years old when he saw the ominous mountain of bones, glistening on the slick, misty water, that would be darkly dubbed “Massacre Island”, present day Dauphin Island.

After exploring and founding settlements all along the Gulf Coast, Bienville eventually decided to stay in the New World to handle the affairs of the fledgeling areas for France, and his brother Iberville returned to Paris as a voice for the colony.  This now left Bienville as the leading Le Moyne in the colonizing of French Louisiana, having already founded Mobile in 1702 and continuing expansion to establish New Orleans in 1718.


Close up of Illustration by Sean Herman


In becoming the founder of Mobile, New Orleans, and other surrounding cities, Bienville became an icon in history.  He became the subject of hero mythology and folklore, though some truth definitely could be found in these stories.  “Bienville had the reputation of knowing the Indians well. Mastering the lingua franca of the lower Mississippi, called mobilien, he was without doubt the only governor of a colony in New France to speak to the Indians without an interpreter. He pushed indianization so far as to tattoo himself with a serpent, which wrapped around his body.”1

The explorer Bertet de la Clue noted how the southern Amerindians “have their skins covered with figures of snakes which they make with the point of a needle.  Mr. de Bienville who is the general of the country has all of his body covered in this way and when he is obliged to march to war with them he makes himself nude like them.  They like him very much but they also fear him.”2

According to several historic sources, Bienville had gotten heavily tattooed by a local tribe.  Some believe it to be the legendary lost Mauville Indians, in order to become closer with the Indian population and earn their valuable trust.   Fellow explorer Henri de Tonti went so far as to say, “An officer (Bienville), a man of breeding whose name you would recognize, who, as well as an image of the Virgin and the baby Jesus, a large cross on his stomach with the miraculous words which appeared to Constantine and an endless number of marks in the savage style, had a snake which passed around his body and whose tongue pointed toward an extremity which I will leave you to guess.”3

Henri de Tonti went on to give descriptions of these tattooing practices.

“These ornaments or marks of honor are not printed without pain; for a start they draw the pattern on the skin; then, with a needle or a small well-sharpened bone, they prick to blood, following the pattern; after which, they rub on the pricked place with a powder of the color asked by the one who gets that mark.” 4

Bienville's disc tattoo is seen in Julian Rayford's 1974 sculpture which hangs on the entrance to the George Wallace tunnel

Bienville’s disc tattoo is seen in Julian Rayford’s 1974 sculpture which hangs on the entrance to the George Wallace tunnel

Captain Bossu wrote of his experience as an explorer getting tattooed around the same time as Bienville, offering some insight to the experience Bienville may have had.  Captain Bossu recounted,

“I sat on a wildcat skin while an Indian burned some straw.  He put the ashes in water and used this simple mixture to draw the deer.  He then traced the drawing with big needles, pricking me until I bled.  The blood mixed with the ashes of the straw formed a tattoo which can never be removed.  After that I smoked a pipe and walked on white skins which were spread under my feet.  They danced for me and shouted with joy.  They then told me that if I traveled among the tribes allied to them, all that I had to do to receive a warm welcome was to smoke a peace pipe and show my tattoo.  They also said that I was their brother and that if I were killed they would avenge my death. . . . I cannot tell you how much I suffered and how great an effort I made to remain impassive.  I even joked with the Arkansas women who were present.  The spectators, surprised by my stoicism, cried out with joy, danced, and told me that I was a real man. I was truly in great pain and ran a fever for almost a week.  You would never believe how attached to me these people have become since then.” 5

Years passed, colonies were established, and alliances were made.  Bienville and his armies fought in war after war, allying with native tribes against the English.  The English made alliances with other native tribes as well, causing a warring between natives that had never happened in such a way before, permanently mutating that native landscape.  When the warring subsided, Bienville was left tired, worn, and alone.

A statue of Bienville showing an example of some of his tattoos on display at Fort Conde museum.

A statue of Bienville showing an example of some of his tattoos on display at Fort Conde museum.

Going back to 1702, England and France were at war, the War of Spanish Succession.  Some say that D’Iberville had contracted malaria while on the Gulf coast, others say it was yellow fever, and both his health and judgment were deteriorating quickly.  Early in 1706, he left France in command of twelve vessels that then devastated the island of Nevis, taking the entire island population prisoner.  He was working Havana, where he was planning to halt English colony settlement in Carolina, when he died suddenly in July of 1706.  Most claim he passed due to yellow fever.  After his death, questions began to arise about his estate, many rumoring D’Iberville had acquired a large fortune by uncertain means.  The accounts of the West Indian expedition were hopelessly disorganized, furthered by accusations of embezzlement.  His widow, Marie Thérèse Pollet was forced to pay back a large portion of his estate bestowed to her upon his passing.  Due to these claims an actions, France had lost trust in the younger LeMoyne brother.  Bienville was broken and forlorn.  By 1740, Bienville’s health declined, and he begged his ministers for leave to France, which was granted in 1742.  Bienville had made political enemies with other administrators in Mobile, creating animosity amongst the Louisiana colonies.  Years of unreliable troops, faulty timing, and mishaps in planning had taken it’s toll over the past four decades on Bienville.  When looking back on his life, Bienville exhaustedly reflected, “a sort of fatality [has been] set for sometime upon wrecking most of my best-planned projects.”6  Bienville never became the head of a new nation, the trophy he always craved.  He lived to see his Louisiana pass under Spanish rule in 1766 despite petitions to Versailles by its French inhabitants.

Bienville died in 1767 in Paris, at the age of 88.  Records of his funeral and burial were lost through pillage and fire, thus depriving his mortal remains of honoured recognition to this day.


We are brought back to the bay, back to the standoff between the men he arrived with and the spirits with whom he is bound to return.  A lonely, isolated explorer, gliding across the glassy waters of the bay, heads towards the ghosts that forged sacred marks on his flesh, scars that would connect him to them, by promise or by curse.  The damned explorer proceeds with haste, consigned to his fate.  In his sight are roaring flames, growing and engulfing the ghosts that the men so feared, until finally our explorer too disappears, immersed in a blinding blaze.  This fate is shared by an entire nation native to that beautiful land, to fall and fadeaway in the inferno, with nothing but embers left where a strong people once lie.

1.”France in America: Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville
2.Jean-François Bertet de la Clue Sabran, A Voyage to Dauphin Island in 1720: The Journal of Bertet de la Clue, trans. and ed. Francis Escoffier and Jay Higginbotham (Mobile, AL: Museum of the City of Mobile, 1974), 63–64.
4.Balvay Tattooing essay, [Henri de Tonti], “Relation de la Louisianne ou Mississipi Ecrite à une Dame par un Officier de Marine,” in Jean-Frédéric Bernard, Recueil des voyages au Nord contenant divers mémoires très utiles au commerce et à la navigation, tome
5, Relation de la Louisiane et du Mississippi (Amsterdam, 1724), 12.5.Balvay tattooing essay, Bossu, Nouveaux voyages aux Indes, 122–224.
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The Serpents of Bienville

Categories: Featured Blogs, General, News | Posted by: Sean Herman

jackson oak 1

        I love where I live, where I have grown up.  Huge live oaks, with arms outstretched, spinning to the ground, with moss hanging town, creating canopies, shading all  from the harsh summer sun.  There are sunsets on the bay that you can never explain to people, you have to see it, the colors fading down to nothing.  Natives considered this land sacred land, and I can see why, with the bay giving up jubilees that to this day cause families to gather early in the morning and scoop up all different kinds of sea life that wash ashore.   We are one of only two places in the world that this happens.  It took me 33 years to finally understand that though you may disagree with a history, with actions, with wars and conquests, you can still love the place you live, love the community you walk with, and learn from all of these things to create something new and sacred again.

          I started The Serpents of Bienville project in January of 2015, but it is really something that I have been thinking about for a long time.  Growing up on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I would hear little stories here or there revolving around long gone eras in this area.  After moving away at 17, and coming back at 26, I began to really have an appreciation for the history and folklore that resides here.  In May of 2014, we opened a new shop and were trying to decided on a name, which is never an easy task.  This is where my research into the folklore of the area really started.  One of the things I found that fascinated me was the story of the founder of Mobile, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville.  The story revolved around Bienville getting tattooed by local native tribes in order to gain their trust.  I was amazed that this story was in my area and I never really knew about it.  I became obsessed with the idea of tattooing being a sacred oath that Bienville took with this native tribe.  I began to research deeper into the topic, and found out that this oath may have been more real that I ever could have thought, with both participants stories ending in the same dark way.


           I continued researching and reading, and finding more stories that tied to other stories, that tied to other people, that tied to other myths.  Some of these myths and stories had elements that I was proud of and some had elements that I was completely opposed to.  Growing up in a DIY Punk Rock community, I spent so much time focusing on all of the things I was against, all of the people that I thought were doing wrongs.  Protests, boycotts, rallies, all fighting a clear enemy, something that is very black and white.  The older I have gotten I have learned that grey is thrown in there, and things may be more complicated than I had previously thought.  This doesn’t mean to give up like we hear about movements time and time again, but to research more, and to learn from the things that cause anger in our hearts.  Researching these myths and stories showed me that more and more, also that I have a lot to learn.  There was more grey, more questions, more varying answers.  In taking on the things that turned me off so badly at the beginning, and continuing my research, I began to find lessons in these stories that I had never seen before, lessons I would have missed at a younger age because of wanting to throw away everything that was ugly to me.  No longer looking at people as good or evil, and their actions not being for a greater cause, I began to find the humanity in all of these stories.  Humanity can be beautiful, but sometimes it is the ugliness in humanity that we can truly learn from. Finally, at the age of 33 I am starting to accept my ignorance and my need to learn, and these stories have been a door way for me to do that.

serpentsad1          The Serpents of Bienville has become a labor of love, reflecting that fondness for where I grew up, along with the hard lessons learned.  Now, the final vision of the project has come into focus, and the first phase is starting.  I am taking thirteen myths, stories, or folklore, and breaking them down.  I create a representation of each story on 11”x17” boards.  Each piece corresponds with a story, with each story having an essay explaining it in a historical context, and then taking a sociological look at how it applies to present day lives.  Thirteen stories will be presented, eventually leading up to a book containing all of the prints and essays collected in one place.  Starting July 7th, and then every following quarter a new set of three limited edition prints will be released (along with shirts, buttons, stickers, and more), leading up to the final release of the book in 2016.  I am only releasing 30 packages on this first run.  Prints, apparel, and more can be purchased at  Portions of the essays will be published here at  Each print will include a short exert about the the piece, with the final full essay being available in the final book release.  I hope you enjoy learning about these stories, and the lessons learned from them as much as I have.  This project is one that will continue growing, and I will probably be working on for the rest of my life.  Keep checking back for more releases and essays to be published.

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